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Finding your sanctuary

Finding your sanctuary is a visualisation I use in my pregnancy and Hatha yoga classes.

It is a really useful meditation tool to help you feel safe and calm, it can help to slow your heart rate and release feel good endorphins.

With regular practice you can build on the visualisation and it can be really useful during times of stress.

There are different ways to enjoy this meditation. You might be a very visual person, not everyone can bring a picture into their mind, sometimes it is more of a feeling or a tuning in to different senses.

I have a few different places of sanctuary that I am able to visit in my mind ranging from forests to my own garden.

My favourite sanctuary is a holiday memory.

Back when my children were small, we were on holiday in North Devon. We had arrived and unpacked after a long car journey (those of you with children will know how long those journeys can feel!).

I remember feeling really tired when my husband suggested that we take a walk on the beach. The beach was a short walk away and as we turned a corner we could see the beach ahead of us. The sand was deep and soft beneath our feet and the boys were giddy with excitement, giggling and throwing themselves on the floor, flailing limbs making sand angels. In front of me I could see the sea and the horizon, the sun was getting low in the sky, casting that beautiful orange glow that only comes at sunset. Behind me were sand dunes scattered with long grass swaying and shimmering in the breeze.

I climbed the sand dunes and sat myself down at the top. I could feel the cool sand beneath my feet and between my toes, the gentle breeze brushed my face and I inhaled the salty aroma. I could hear the boys giggling and the distant sound of the waves, and just like that the feelings of heaviness and stress began to evaporate, like a mist clearing. I inhaled deeper and felt as though somebody had loosened a belt, from around my ribcage.

I felt calm and happy and what I can only describe as pure bliss.

I can still imagine I am there and feel those same feelings when I close my eyes.

How can you create your own sanctuary?

Begin by making sure you are in a space where you won't be disturbed. Get yourself comfortable either seated or laying down.

Bring awareness to your breath and any physical sensations.

It can help to tense and release your muscles from your toes all the way up to your head, once the physical body feels relaxed begin to bring your awareness inwards.

If your mind is busy try to let the thoughts come and go without engaging or getting into a conversation with them.

Start to think of a place that makes you feel happy and calm, it can be a memory from a holiday, a photograph, a place, or even a place that only exists in your imagination.

Take a look around in your imagination, notice your surroundings, what you are standing on, what can you feel, hear, smell?

Stay here and notice how you feel, can you notice your breathing slowing down?

Start with short amounts of time and then build on it each time, until it feels more and more familiar.

When you have this special sanctuary stored in your psyche you can visit it whenever you feel that you need to.

It is a particularly useful tool during labour helping you to feel calm and safe, increasing endorphin levels (hormones of pleasure and transcendence) and soothing the nervous system.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

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